We were talking on Twitter about cars named after fish. Well, I had floated the idea of doing "fish week" where all seven vehicles are named after creatures from the sea. (Think of any yet? Here's one: Hyundai Tiburon.)
The world was a much simpler place before branding, product planning, and the word synergy. Automakers could objectify women, evoke Native American imagery, show smoking in advertisements, and even offer in-glove box shot glasses. (Magnetic, of course!)
They could also name a car "Guppy."
In Japan, automakers were just finding their feet after the Second World War. The roads were filled with new ideas, captive imports—usually knock-down kits of British, French, or American vehicles—and quickly-improving domestic designs.
Truth is, engineers just didn't know what would be successful so pretty much everything was tried. Cony vehicles, built by Aichi Machine Industry Company in Nagoya, took a look at the tax situation, demographics, the lack of fuel available in Japan, and decided to make the Guppy, a practical, two-place…mid-engined…
Seriously. Suicide doors, tiny tires, and an even tinier cargo bay, it's incredible that the Guppy was rated to carry 100kg, or 220lbs.
Incredible? Well, the reason the mid-mounted engine needed only those tiny air intakes is because it was a mere 2-valve, 1-cylinder…199cc engine. Power? 11 horsepower. Fuel consumption? Right around 3.36 L/100km (70 U.S. MPG). The engine was hooked to a torque converter.
I'm sure it was quite comfortable when colder weather hit Japan, especially with all of the warm parts mounted just behind the cabin.
Here's the thing: the Guppy can be swatted aside as a stupid little anomaly but for two interesting facts. First, Cony is pronounced more like "Connie" in Japan—a hint at its ease of use and approachable nature in a country where car ownership was still a relative novelty. Second, it was designed for and priced for the average university graduate.
So, how perfect is that? An affordable, fuel-efficient, mid-engined truck. That said, there are a few other post-war Japanese trucks that tick a few boxes that the Guppy doesn't…
Today, decades after being bought by Aichi Machine Industry Company still makes automotive components, including the engine in the Nissan Juke and the dual-clutch transmission found in the GT-R. They also had a hand in producing one of my favourite Nissans ever built.
But that's a story for another day.